With heads still reeling from the past few days we have a quiet day at the hostel to relax, cook some food and mentally prepare for the hateful 16 hour bus ride to come tonight. With some time to comprehend it all we can begin to try putting some perspective on what we’ve seen in this place. We arrived in a bit of a hurry from Peru thankful to get our travels back on the road hoping to obliterate the relative boredom that was being holed up in Lima. Victory was declared on day one.
What followed from that initial victory was a long tumble down Alice’s rabbit hole into wonderland with no hopes of slowing the fall, but it shouldn’t have been a surprise. San Pedro is a well advertised location and we knew what was here but it seems that knowing is not being. I say being rather than seeing not to be faux spiritual but as a pragmatic statement, so many senses are smashed together, tossed about and chewed up. We can see a photo, we can’t honestly see the Atacama as we know it now.
The geological ingredients here were described as a perfect storm, Charlie is right in that respect. Any one highlight of this place is the type of phenomenon that people base entire holidays on; here they’re not only numerous, they overlap, contradict, clash and compliment. The perfect storm creates not just an amazing place, it mashes together natural wonders that feel like they should never go together; but go together they do, and what a spectacle it makes. Where else can you float on a salty lake which looks like a tropical reef that has been plonked in the middle of the worlds driest desert with one of the worlds greatest mountain ranges right before you? Crazy enough but consider that this insanity is just one of five genuine world class wonders you can easily visit in one day. You get the idea.
One interesting tid-bit of information we found interesting is that just a few years ago there was a huge earthquake in this part of the Andes. It apparently threw the Earths axis off by .08% and now the tropic of Capricorn is 6km further south. Locals say that after this event the Atacama is more humid, who knows what effect this will have on this areas delicate natural balance as the years roll on.
But this all doesn’t come for free. North of here in Peru we saw vast deserts that were nothing more than wasteland rubbish tips, literally pecked over by vultures in an unhumorously cliche scene of despair. Contrast that with our guide in Valle de la Luna who ruthlessly tore strips off some cheeky tourists drinking beer in the valley, a national park and the connection is a simple one to make. As the bus drives west into the blazing sun it is this contrast that grabs us right now. Not that the deserts in Peru necessarily have the outrageous collection of phenomena as the Atacama, no doubt they don’t, but could they be beautiful and majestic? You bet they could.
Depending on which side of the border you are here there’s human triumph or failure in drastic measure. To think of the scenes in Peru visited upon the Atacama is enough to make one weep but how easily it happens, and so often. Here is just an example of what happens all around our world; wasteland or wonderland is a yawning chasm separated only by the hairs breath of attitude.